Dan Balz and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post won the best-in-show writing award of the Virginia Press Association last week for "10 Days in September," their retrospective on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Of the winning entry, judges wrote, "These are rich, polished, well-sourced articles that are breathtaking in total and shine light on a presidency. The depth and breadth of the work is amazing and demonstrates both determined reportage and outstanding writing."

The Virginia Press Association contest annually attracts more than 5,000 entries in dozens of categories, making it one of the largest news contests in the nation.

Staff members of the Washington Times, the Daily Press of Newport News and the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk also received best-in-show awards in other categories.

Alexander Hunter of the Washington Times won best-in-show/artwork for "The Durable Cold Warrior," an illustration of former President Ronald Reagan. Sangjib Min of the Daily Press won best-in-show/photography for "Four Lives: One Chance," the photo portion of a year-long series that followed people through drug court in Hampton Roads.

The Virginian-Pilot staff won the best-in-show/news presentation award for excellence of design and makeup.

Best-in-show winners are chosen from among the first-place winners in all categories of writing, photography and artwork and from the general makeup category in the presentation division.

Individual Washington Post staff members won several first-place awards in categories for large newspapers.

Tamara Jones won for feature writing portfolio, Courtland Milloy for column writing, Alec Klein for coverage of America Online, David Segal for criticism and Tony Kornheiser for sports column writing.

The Post staff also won for its coverage of last fall's sniper attacks and, separately, for coverage of how the shootings affected local sports.

Of the articles by Jones, judges wrote, "This package wins above all for the thematic development that characterizes each piece. The overriding significance of each feature is woven into the flow of the writing with poetic clarity."

Jones's entry included stories about the Washington Freedom soccer team, lifesaving efforts on behalf of the youngest victim of the sniper shootings and the trapped Pennsylvania miners.

Judges also praised Segal, whose entry covered the music of Christina Aguilera, Bruce Springsteen and Eminem. The entry was also a finalist for best-in-show. "The writer displays an exceptional blunt, conversational and fact-supported style," judges wrote. "This work provides opportunity for some to take offense and others to embrace his views, an ideal critical writing mix."

Other Post winners were Richard Leiby, second place for in-depth or investigative reporting; Michael Wilbon, second place for sports column writing; Peter Perl, second place for sports feature writing for a Post magazine article on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder; Jahi Chikwendiu, third place for picture story or essay; Sue Anne Pressley, third place for feature story writing; Donna St. George, third place for features series or continuing story; and Dave Sheinin, third place for sports event writing.